The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) decided not to renew its contract with Philadelphia-based marketing firm Barton Gilanelli and Associates Inc. for 2012, opting to handle the organization’s public relations “internally.”
“We truly appreciate everything Barton-Gilanelli has done for RVIA and the industry over years, and wish them the best,” said James Ashurst, who joined RVIA last December as vice president of public relations and advertising. “Our decision was based on an overall strategic shift to bring more ownership and responsibility for our public relations function in-house.”
Barton-Gilanelli had contracted on a year-to-year basis with RVIA for 21 years, overseeing public relations efforts to promote the industry and the lifestyle. Over that period, the firm sourced and developed relationships with key media members, resulting in placements and national exposure with high-profile print and electronic media.
“This was an extremely powerful media relations program that even provoked other associations to call RVIA to ask how the RV industry was getting so much national positive exposure,” said Frank Gilanelli. “Without a doubt we played a major role in changing the perception of RVs with the consumers and the media. In the stories seen nationally, 99% were generated by a creative pitch coming out of Philadelphia.”
Ashurst noted that “while we’ve changed the agency arrangement, RVIA remains committed to growing our market through effective media relations.” He added that the Barton-Gilanelli issue was discussed by the Public Relations Committee at RVIA Committee Week and finalized by RVIA staff.
“By bringing PR in-house, it frees up the dollars that went to a fixed agency,” Ashurst said. “We will now be able to appropriate those monies toward media partnerships as well as the ever-growing social media and digital PR outlets.
“What we envision is that we will employ a mix of doing more work internally coupled with the likelihood that we would augment those efforts with media relations consultants working on a job-by-job basis. Actually, we see this type of approach going on across a lot of different industries.”
Ashurst said that the five PR and marketing communications staff members were currently finalizing strategies for the coming year. “Our greatest charge is to expand our central message, focusing on the fun, flexibility and affordability provided by RVing,” he said.
That initiative will be on display at the upcoming California RV Show in Pomona with RVIA conducting “satellite tours” at the event that will be distributed nationally to media.
The RV Centennial program conducted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) throughout 2010 to focus attention on the rich history and bright future of the RV industry continues to gather recognition, most recently being named as “Newsmaker of the Year” by RV Business magazine.
“We are honored that RVBusiness selected the RV Centennial as the top industry story of 2010,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “With so many other compelling topics and trends from last year, it’s gratifying that the RV Centennial was recognized for its strong message of resiliency and the way it was embraced by our industry.”
Previously, the RV Centennial media relations effort, conducted by RVIA’s PR team and public relations agency, Barton Gilanelli & Associates, had been recognized by other media and professional communications organizations. PR News named the effort as a finalist in the media relations campaign category of their public relations competition. Additionally, the Association of Marketing & Communications Professionals presented the campaign with a Platinum MarCom Award while the Philadelphia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) honored it with a first-place Pepperpot Award.
The RV Centennial was originally conceived to generate positive media coverage about the enduring appeal of RV travel and camping in a climate filled with bad economic news. RVIA expanded the scope of the effort to unite the RV industry behind a year-long celebratory event during a time of budget cuts and layoffs.
In 1990, a small, upstart Philadelphia advertising/PR agency, Barton Gilanelli & Associates, contacted the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the $12 billion RV industry’s trade association in Reston, Va., with a bold claim. It guaranteed that it could do a better job at a lower cost than the world’s largest public relations agency that RVIA was using at the time.
That pitch and persistence landed the then-5-year-old Philadelphia agency an opportunity to make a presentation to the association. It went very well.
“We took a chance on a little agency that showed us creative, cost-efficient ways to achieve the industry’s public relations objectives,” said Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer, in a news release. “Over the past 20 years, Barton Gilanelli’s programs have been key in helping the industry change the public’s perception of RVs. Just about any media outlet you can name, from Time to the “Today Show,” has done a positive story about RVs and the RV lifestyle.”
Since 1990, Barton Gilanelli has developed campaigns positioning RVs as a great way to enhance family bonds, an economical means of travel and one of the best ways to explore America. On the solid foundation built by public relations, in 1997 RVIA launched its multimillion- dollar Go RVing advertising program. Today there are more than 30 million RVers.
“It’s been said that great clients help make successful agencies,” said Barton Gilanelli President Frank Gilanelli. “It’s certainly true in this case. Of course, performance is paramount, but without mutual respect and trust, this long association would not have endured.”
2010 also marks another milestone: the centennial of the RV industry. RVIA and Barton Gilanelli are working together to tell the story of this U.S.-founded industry that began 100 years ago. Although the technology and design have dramatically changed, the reason that people RV has remained the same: the desire to see what’s around the next bend.
Barton Gilanelli & Associates was founded in 1985 by Frank Gilanelli and Ronni Barton, who set up shop in a spare room of a three-story house. From that humble beginning, a year later the agency moved into a historic chocolate factory in Old City Philadelphia and now represents national consumer, business-to-business and association clients located around the country.
NBC’s Weekend TODAY Show will interview RVIA spokesman and noted RV historian David Woodworth Saturday morning.
The segment will feature a 2010 Fleetwood Discovery and a 1916 Telescoping Apartment RV. The segment is scheduled to air live outside TODAY’s New York studios between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. EST, according to an alert from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
During the segment, viewers will see and hear about the evolution of RVing over the past century. Woodworth will also convey key messages such as the value and benefits of RV ownership.
As this is a live news program, the segment could be pre-empted by breaking news. Check your local listings to confirm the time the Weekend TODAY Show airs in your area.
RVIA and its public relations agency, Barton Gilanelli & Associates, continue to generate positive national and local RV stories about the RV industry and its centennial celebration.